For the first time in history, World Superbike will travel to Thailand – the 24th different country the series has visited since it premiered in 1988.
Thailand hosts round two this weekend – March 20-22 – at the new Chang International Circuit near Buriram, which translates to City of Happiness. This marks the 48th track to host World SBK; Chang International Circuit is also the fifth new venue to debut on the World SBK schedule in the past five years.
Speaking of the circuit, World SBK says “The track’s 4.554km (2.8 mile) layout is laid on completely flat terrain and features twelve corners, five left and seven right. Following a first fast section mainly made of two straights and two right-hand turns, the riders enter a mixed second part of the track, which connects back to the start/finish straight.”
The 13-round 2015 World Superbike Championship began a month ago at Phillip Island in Australia. Splitting the wins were former teammates Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam.
Kawasaki Racing’s Rea took the race-one win, the Northern Ireland rider joined on the podium by Pata Honda World Superbike’s Haslam and Aruba.it Racing Ducati Superbike’s Chaz Davies.
In race two, it was Haslam’s turn; the Brit took the win ahead of Rea, and Davies once again rounded out the podium. Due to their victories, Aprilia now has a total of 50 SBK wins, and Kawasaki 60.
As the series heads to round two in Thailand, Rea and Haslam are tied for points with 45, and Ducati’s Chaz Davies is third with 32.
The Welshman Davies will once again be joined on the Ducati team by three-time SBK Champion Troy Bayliss, the 45-year-old once again riding for the injured Davide Giugliano. Bayliss finished 13-16 at Phillip Island, which was the first time he rode a Panigale R since May 2014.
The last-two World SBK Champions – Pata Honda World Superbike’s Sylvain Guintoli and Kawasaki Racing’s Tom Sykes – will be looking for some redemption after a not-so-good start in Australia. Guintoli finished 7-5, and Sykes 6-4.
The reigning champion Guintoli is still recovering from a neck injury sustained at a Jerez practice crash in January, but is confident he can run competitively at Chang aboard the CBR1000RR SP. His teammate, 2014 Michael van der Mark, will also be looking for some extra points; he finished fifth in race one at Phillip Island, but crashed out of race two while running in fourth.
The two Spanish rookies – Aprilia Racing Team’s Jordi Torres and Althea Racing Ducati’s Nico Terol – had promising starts at Phillip Island, and will have zero track knowledge just as everyone else in Chang, which can help their chances.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes and Randy de Puniet had some technical issues aboard their GSX-R1000s at Phillip Island, and will hope to quickly find a competitive setup at Chang.
BMW Motorrad Italia’s Sylvain Barrier and MV Agusta Reparto Corse’s Leon Camier are hoping to put on a good show on in Thailand as they are still familiarizing themselves with the 2015 versions of their respective bikes, World SBK reports.
David Salom (Team Pedercini Kawasaki) and Niccolò Canepa (Team Hero EBR) will tackle the second event of the year despite not being 100% fit after injuries sustained at Phillip Island. It is a no-go for Gabor Rizmayer, whose place will be taken in Thailand by Polish rider Ireneusz Sikora.
Salom will be joined by former STK1000 regular and WorldSBK debutant Greg Gildenhuys from South Africa, who will be Team Pedercini’s second rider. Local wildcard riders Chanon Chumjai (RAC Oil Racing Team BMW) and Anucha Nakcharoensri (YSS TS Racing Honda) elevate the number of entries to twenty-six, World SBK reports.
For everyone to familiarize themselves with the new circuit, World SBK has extended the opening free practice to 75 minutes instead of the usual 45.
2015 Thailand World Superbike TV Schedule
beIN Sports will broadcast Thailand World Superbike from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 22.
2015 World Superbike Point Standings (after one of 13 rounds):
1. Jonathan Rea 45 pts GBR KAWASAKI Kawasaki Racing Team
2. Leon Haslam 45 pts GBR APRILIA Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils
3. Chaz Davies 32 pts GBR DUCATI Aruba.it Racing-Ducati Superbike Team
4. Tom Sykes 23 pts GBR KAWASAKI Kawasaki Racing Team
5. Sylvain Guintoli 20 pts FRA HONDA Pata Honda World Superbike Team
6. Nicolas Terol 18 pts ESP DUCATI Althea Racing
7. Leon Haslam 14 pts GBR APRILIA Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils
8. Jordi Torres 13 pts ESP APRILIA Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils
9. Matteo Baiocco 12 pts ITA DUCATI Althea Racing
10. Michael van der Mark 11 pts NED HONDA Pata Honda World Superbike Team